I figured out how to play Sam’s Journey on the Commodore 64 using two fire buttons! One as a normal fire button and another for jumping.
C64 joysticks only have one fire button so jumping up in platform games requires you press up on the joystick. Back in the day we knew no better and did our best using the directional movements. It’s not very precise as it’s easy to slip into left and right too. Pressing a second button to jump was a luxury NES owners had! C64GS owners had a joystick with 2 separate fire buttons but I think there was only ever one game that took advantage of that feature.
Unfortunately you’ll have to use the Vice C64 emulator, Virtual C64, or another C64 emulator that allows you to map keys to joystick actions.
First of all, open the joystick settings in Vice. Here’s the one from version 3.1.
Assign a keyset to joystick 2. I used the keys T, G, “,” and “.” and the right CTRL to fire. Sam’s Journey actually plays reasonably well using those keys if you don’t want to go any further.
However, if you want to use a controller you’ll need another program to map those keys to controller actions. On MacOS I found Enjoyable, a free application that allows you to map controller buttons and other inputs to keyboard keys or mouse movements.
I simply assigned left, right and down on the d-pad to the correct keys, and then two fire buttons to CTRL (fire) and T (up) respectively and it worked!
The game is definitely more enjoyable but it’s just as hard as before. I could have sworn I ran out of lives in the past to be thrown back to the start of the level. Now I kept getting put back at the last checkpoint, which is an improvement I have to admit as I died quite often. 🙂